The Malta Independent 14 July 2020, Tuesday

Places! Teatru Manoel sets the stage ready for the ‘new normal’

Tuesday, 30 June 2020, 09:18 Last update: about 13 days ago

Malta’s beloved national theatre is getting ready to welcome back audiences, with COVID-19 in mind

Teatru Manoel in Valletta is preparing to safely welcome back audiences as restrictions surrounding the global COVID-19 pandemic are gradually lifted.

Despite being closed from mid-March at the height of the COVID-19 crisis, the theatre has nevertheless kept its essence alive, largely through innovative online initiatives.

Each week, the Streaming Series shared one of several operas, plays, musicals and concerts previously staged at the theatre exclusively via its Facebook page. These authentic theatre-like online events have also been complemented by the #StreamTalks, whereby cast and crew would share their experiences of working on the production.

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"Alongside the Streaming Series and #StreamTalks, both very well-received, various other ongoing projects and tuition have continued unabated in a digital capacity," explains Teatru Manoel artistic director, Kenneth Zammit Tabona. "The theatre has also taken advantage of this enforced hiatus by continuing maintenance and restoration works."

The theatre also ventured further into the online world with new initiatives such as the Teatru Manoel Interviews, in which prominent artists shared their experiences, and the Shakespeare Monologues, whereby solo actors performed some of the Bard's best works. Both projects are now set to continue both online and in person on the Manoel stage, with social distancing and other precautions maintained throughout.

The popular Toi Toi programme has likewise continued online without stopping, through collaboration with local artistic consultants and practitioners and by adding inventive solutions for preserving Toi Toi's famously interactive quality.

As Teatru Manoel prepares to re-open its doors, it is prioritising the safety of the cast, crew and audience that will be hosted within it during the "new normal" that follows the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The regulations regarding what we were permitted to do at the theatre were initially very stringent, but they are gradually being officially relaxed, so we are remaining flexible and adapting as new information is received from the authorities," continues Zammit Tabona. "Sadly, dramatic works are not feasible at the moment as actors cannot physically interact but we live day-to-day hoping that the pandemic will lose its sting and enable us to function as a temple of the arts once more."

The COVID-related limitations may yet have a knock-on effect on the upcoming theatre season and much-anticipated annual Baroque Festival, due to take place in January 2021, but Zammit Tabona remains optimistic. "Since the situation is still rapidly changing regarding the pandemic, it is impossible to predict how it may impact the upcoming theatre season," he explains. "Nevertheless, we have planned a number of performances like piano recitals, chamber music, jazz and lieder and operatic recitals that can open as soon as permitted and the Baroque Festival is set to be better than ever if it can go ahead.

"And perhaps there may soon be a play - I hope an opera - about 'Life in the time of Coronavirus', which we could stage as soon as we can as a Teatru Manoel production!"


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